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COUNTY NEEDS CAMPAIGN REFORM

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Politicians have a right to accept campaign funds from any group or individual. But the public's right to know where those funds are coming from is just as sacrosanct.

This month the Salt Lake County Commission is to address a campaign finance-reform proposal designed to help protect this right and keep campaign finances open to public view. It's important that the current commission vote to make the proposed amendments part of the law.The amendments would close a loophole that the county desperately needs to eliminate since it allows political-action committees to funnel money to candidates without clearly stating the source of the funds.

The changes would also require current officeholders to file periodic financial reports. Both those requirements would help keep campaign contributions above board. The money a public official takes as political donations should be disclosed throughout the official's term in office, not just during a campaign.

Knowing who financially supports a candidate or officeholder alerts the politician's constituents to at least two things: which individuals or organizations may share the politician's views on issues and to whom the politician may owe some allegiance.

Whether or not an officeholder rewards a contributor by voting a certain way on matters relating to the supporter's interests may not always be obvious. But being required to disclose who those contributors are makes a politician more accountable.

The reform proposal was crafted by Commission Chairman Jim Bradley, who will be leaving county government in January after losing in November to Republican Mary Callaghan. In order to give Bradley a chance to vote on the proposal, it would have to be addressed in or before the commission's last meeting of the year Wednesday, Dec. 21. Bradley should have that chance.

It's obvious at least part of Bradley's intention in drafting the amendments was to thwart the activities of the Committee for Responsible Government, the unorthodox private political-action committee organized by Commissioner Brent Overson. The committee gave thousands of dollars to Republican candidates in the November election.

No matter how Overson feels personally about the proposed amendments, he should not try to keep the current commission from approving it. The county's residents need and have a right to know where their public officials are getting political funding.